Interview with Justine Graykin

Justine Graykin’s story, The Perfect Hook, appears in the Summer 2007 issue of Shimmer. To learn more about Justine, check out her website or drop her an email here!


Where did the idea come from?
The inspiration for “The Perfect Hook” came from an actual outing with my family to see “Peter Pan” performed by a local theater group in Prescott Park in Portsmouth, NH. My younger son did indeed come up with the line “Learn to be a parent and recite a silly rule” which I used in the story. And he did run around the park releasing clouds of bubbles to everyone’s delight. Much of the detail is autobiographical, although I confess I have not been invited by Captain Hook to visit Never Land.

How did the story change as you developed it?

The first draft was much longer. I generally regard my first drafts as “brain dumps”, during which I pour out everything that occurs to me. Then I go back to trim and condense, cooking the story down like a rich stew.

You know the advice “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” Was there a scene or line that it really hurt to cut, but cutting it made the story stronger? May we link to a very old version so that we may marvel at how much it changed?
Oh, absolutely! I’ve posted the original submission at I had already slashed quite a bit from it before the editor, John Joseph Adams, got hold of it. He gently but firmly requested that I fire a character I call the Parrot Lady. It was with deep regret that I served her notice, but she had to go. I am one of those freakish specimens of writer which enjoys revision, and welcomes criticism. I can also be very mulish, and I will dig my heels in if I think an editor’s revisions to my story do it damage. (I’ve lost a sale over such a battle.) On the other hand, being asked to make a change can provide a challenge to come up with something better, and I believe this story is an excellent example of that.

How is this story like your other work?

Most of my work has speculative elements, the “what if?” premise. I frequently have a message embedded in my stories, in this case, “Somebody has to be the mother—and proud of it.” But I also try to use humor to lighten things up. Even my most deadly dark and serious work (which I don’t do much of) has at least moments of irony, if not humor. I do not care for excessive violence or sexual wallowing, and I find the less one uses foul language the more effective it is when you do. My kids could read this, and most of my other work, without encountering anything inappropriate.

How is it different?
It’s so domestic and family-oriented. My characters are generally loners, misfits, extraordinary in some way. I also tend to write romances. A number of my short stories and novels are built around some improbable relationship between two quirky people (or creatures) in weird situations. (Well, maybe that applies to “Perfect Hook” after all.) I’ve also been accused of being terribly political. And much of my work ventures far further into the fantastic. But not unicorns. Never unicorns.

Questions About Writing:

What writing projects are you presently working on?
I have a couple of novels that I toggle back and forth on, revising and improving (did I mention I enjoy revising?) plus an assortment of short stories that I keep fiddling with and then sending out in hopes of a sale. Samples are posted on my website. Plus I write assorted articles for the local paper and an online publication.

Favorite book you’ve read recently?
Just finished Agatha Christie’s The Unexpected Guest. Corker of a mystery. I also enjoyed Susanna Clarke’s Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.

What fictional character would you love to drink tea with?
Jean-Luc Picard. Earl Grey. Hot.

How long had you been submitting before you made your first sale?

I started getting serious about submitting about four years ago. But two part-time jobs and a family leave little free time to do the research and grunt work that goes along with finding a market. Besides, when I do have the time, I’d much rather write. So it took me this long to finally score. Oh, you didn’t know? This is my first sale.

How did you celebrate your first sale?
Champagne, of course.

Random Questions:

What is your darkest secret?
If I told you, it would no longer be a secret, would it?

If you had a working time machine what advice would you give a younger self?

Quit partying and get busy. Just writing great stuff ain’t gonna get it published.

Favorite food?
Mostly what isn’t good for me.

What do you want to be when you grow up?
That presumes I haven’t.

What was the most fun you ever had?
I’m not sure, but it probably involved drugs and/or alcohol.

If you have a day job, what is it? What do you like about it?
I am employed part-time as a librarian. I like being around books and people who like books. However, it does have it’s downside: I am confronted daily with the conundrum, “With so much crap getting published, why can’t I get my foot in the door?” Never mind. I will. In fact, with “The Perfect Hook”, the camel’s nose has poked under the tent.

Quiz: How many writers does it take to change a lightbulb? Please explain your answer:
Only one; they know what to do because chances are they’ve had to research the subject for a story. However, first they have to notice the lightbulb needs changing; they won’t realize it’s getting dark until they shut down the computer.

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Speculative fiction for a miscreant world

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